Open Source Software and New Users


Open Source Software CommunityFree/Libre and Open Source software versus closed and proprietary software doesn’t matter.  It’s not the answer to solve all our problems.  It’s not the question we need to ask anyone and everyone either.  It simply doesn’t matter.  Well, it might matter to you and I…but it doesn’t matter to most people out there.

No matter what you say and do.  No matter what ideals you preach to people.  No matter what concepts about freedom you tout to them…it just won’t matter at all.  They want what they want and when they want it.  They turn a power button on and a device powers up giving them the functionality they need.  They open up a piece of software that gives them the features they want.  They don’t care whether they pay for it, if someone can alter it, if someone can distribute it, or if it was free.

It sucks that people don’t care about their own freedom with programs/code, but it’s true.

The Great Debate

The debate that rages on is usually one or two camps that support Free Software, Libre Software, or Open Source Software (or a combination of them) and those folks will lecture the end user who doesn’t care.  Have you ever been lectured about something you don’t care about?  Usually, you won’t remember anything about what is said to you when that happens.  The same is true for end users that couldn’t care less about what software they’re using…as long as it works.

Instead of lecturing these folks and talking down to them about the benefits of FOSS/FLOSS/OSS…I say we try a different approach.  I say we identify with them.  Establish a common ground.  Less like a bull in a ceramics shop.  A common proverb here in the US is that “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.  Being tactful and pleasant instead of overbearing a sharp is a good way to win people over to view things as you do.  Education is key…if you see someone using a locked in device, you could tactfully let them know of alternatives and why they might choose them.  I’ve seen the untactful approach and it does nothing but push the person farther away from free and open source software.  Less is more in these cases…no one wants to come off as a know it all…but that’s exactly what I’ve seen happen many times.

The Importance of Free and Open Source Software

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of Open Source software (Free software or Open Source software) but I am trying to downplay the importance/intensity of the debate between the various beliefs (FLOSS/FOSS/OSS).  I’ve seen people get very livid about the idea that all of their software should be completely open source or that it should be free AND open source or else they won’t use it.  I applaud these people for having a stance and sticking to it and I believe the world would be a much better place if we had more of this type of software that everyone could work on collaboratively.  I think it would spur innovation and bring people together.  But here’s the kicker…the end user DOESN’T CARE about your debate.  While it’s great that it means something to you, 9 times out of 10 it won’t mean anything to the end user.   If they’re completely new to these ideologies try easing them into understanding.  This isn’t sink or swim…everyone starts off in the shallow end first and when they’re ready they move into the deep end.  Don’t expect everyone to care right away.

If you have a user of software who will only use Open Source software…a person who staunchly supports this concept…and that person defends their stance any chance they can get, most people see it as a good thing.  In my opinion, rabid defense of ideology is sometimes not a good thing…because many times people lose the defensive stance and go on the offensive one.  The same is true for those who will only use Free and Open Source software…they become incensed at the idea that anyone would ever use anything else or would want to use.  Both of these camps tout altering the code, collaborative design, vendor lock-in, high prices of upgrades for proprietary software, and other ideological points of contention.  As I said, it’s great that these camps are so invested in their ideals…and there is a point where you do more harm than good.

The Perspective of the Uninformed New User

It’s hard for new users to understand the perspective and ideological camps behind  free and open source software because there is nothing else like it in the world.  Insisting that someone adapt immediately to the ideals put forth by FOSS is, in my opinion, an unrealistic expectation.  When someone is new to a group or community, demanding they adhere to a set of rules they don’t understand can be overwhelming.  In my opinion, a welcoming stance from the community members followed by a path of self discovery is what develops new users into the strongest supporters of free and open source software.

The attitudes and behavior new users face when initially embarking on their open source journey will stick with them and will shape their opinions for years to come.  A few years ago, I wrote an article titled “A New User Guide to Linux Communities“.  Despite being written in 2008, it is still applicable today.  New users need patience, tolerance, understanding, and empowerment when first trying FOSS.  If we can give them a positive and up-building experience, they’ll definitely come back for more and become more avid supporters.  Leave the politics and ideologies to the wayside.  Try helping the new user without trying to indoctrinate them.  Let them come to the discovery that FOSS is where they should be at.  Let them learn things on their own time and pace.  In the end, if they come to the same conclusions we have as FOSS users on their own, they’ll be more likely to stay that way and more productive community members in the future :)

Sony Violates the LGPL3 and Steals KDE Icon


Looks like Sony has gone from prosecuting pirates to becoming one.  Only days after the PS4 announcement too.

Over at the KDE Blog, Jonathan Riddell explains that Sony is using a KDE icon in violation of the LGPL3 license under which it is released:

“Nowhere on their website terms of use does it list the LGPL 3 licence it may be copied under (It does say “Any unauthorised use or copying of site content, or use of site content which breaches these Terms (or their spirit) may violate trade mark, copyright and other proprietary rights, and have civil and criminal consequences” although it also says “You must seek and obtain the written consent the operator of this site before creating any link to this site” so I don’t give that page any legal credit.)”

The page in question is a ‘Choose your Vaio‘ webpage on the Sony UK site.

What does one do in cases like this?  It seems that legal action would be a waste of time and money…hopefully, Sony takes note of this and corrects the issue.  They’ve been heavily invested in Linux and Open Source for many years now with their platforms and I’d like to think they’d have learned from their rootkit debacle that you should act quickly to fix things before they blow up on the internet.

Creating Symlinks – How and Why

As part of your Linux journey, you’ve probably heard of symlinks which are also known as symbolic links.  I figured that since I fixed an error using symbolic links to setup an environment to allow my son to learn program.  I am using something called HacketyHack which can be found here:

The problem is that on Ubuntu or Debian, the libssl and libcrypto libraries are out of date.  Hackety Hack’s program requires versions greater than 1.0.0 and 0.9.8 is installed.  The fix is of course a symbolic link.  But how do we do this and more importantly, WHY do we have to do this to fix it?  Let’s go through what they are first.

What is a Symbolic Link?

Look on your computers’ desktop right now.  If you’re like most people, you’ll have many shortcuts to different programs that you access daily.  On my Windows 7 machine at work, I have around 40-50 shortcuts to commonly used tools and places I access to accomplish my job.  Those are, in a nutshell, what symlinks are.  They’re pretty much just advanced shortcuts and with the case I’m going to present today…shortcuts without an icon.  Symlinks redirect a computer to an end location OR make a computer think the end location is where the shortcut is…and since they perform these 2 functions, there are 2 types of them.

  1. Hard Links
  2. Soft Links

Soft Link – When you click on/open a soft link, you’re redirected to the location it is pointing to.  For example, if you click on ‘My Documents’ on your desktop, you’re redirected to a path on the C: drive where your documents are stored.

Hard Link – A hard link makes the computer think that the shortcut is the actual end location.  So, using our ‘My Documents’ example above…the computer would look at the ‘My Documents’ shortcut and it would see it as the actual end location instead of a pointer to the end location.

What Would I Use a Symbolic Link For?

Do you use dropbox or or any other cloud storage system to share files/store files/backup files?  Then a symbolic link might be a good option for you.  Imagine that you setup a folder on your desktop that is named ‘send-to CLOUD’ and when you drag and drop files to that folder, it sends it directly to those cloud storage systems.  This is something that symbolic links can accomplish.

Another case might be if you need files stored in 2 different locations.  Maybe you want to have settings files for an application be redirected to dropbox so that you can access it and use it on another computer.  As you can see, there are many different reasons for using symbolic links.

How Do I Setup a Symbolic Link?

In Linux, you use the command ‘ln’.  To setup a soft link, you use the -s flag like this:

ln -s /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/

So, in the example above, the file is LINKED or pointed back to the actual file  To setup a hard link you’d drop the -s flag:

ln /tmp /other/location/tmp

In the above example, your /tmp folder will now appear in 2 locations…both /tmp and the /other/location/tmp.  Please understand that /other/location/tmp has to actually exist <em>before</em> you issue the command.

To remove a symbolic link, just use the ‘rm’ command.  I usually use -rf as flags so that it recursively deletes and forces it to occur without confirmation but it is up to you:

rm /other/location/tmp

How Do I Fix Hackety Hack on Debian?

As promised, the solution to fixing Hackety Hack on Debian.  First, you need to find/locate the libraries that it complains about.  In the first error I received, it was looking for  I use the mlocate package which has the command ‘locate’ to find as follows:

devnet@lostlap:~$ locate libcrypto

The output tells me that there is a in two locations:  /usr/lib and /lib.  I’ll need to symbolically link both of those with a soft link so that when the program looks for the file it finds it and the link points it back to

sudo ln -s /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/


sudo ln -s /lib/ /lib/

Now that those to locations are created, we need to follow up with libcrypto which resides in the same two directories as libssl.

sudo ln -s /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/


sudo ln -s /lib/ /lib/

Now that both of those are linked to our actual ssl and crypto libraries, you can try running the file from Hackety Hack again.

For me, this fixed the initial two problems but I still have a failure when the installer does a hard check for OpenSSL 1.0.0 and unfortunately, I don’t have a complete solution for it yet.  So, I suppose I lied a bit with the ‘fix’ for Hackety Hack.  The above information is good though for other programs that might require libraries similar to the ones we linked.

Hopefully, you now have a decent understand of how and why to use symbolic links.

Do you…uh…Use Linux?

Use Whatever You Want

I ran across the flash video above (note: I’m not taking content and embedding it here…you’ll need to click on the image to be taken to the author’s site) a while back and have never posted a link to it.  It’s pretty funny and if you look around on ubergeek’s site, you’ll find a couple of other interesting things like the awesome flash game “Penguin Blood Ninja Fiasco” which I think is just genius.  So give this a look-see…you won’t be sorry.  Guaranteed to brighten even the darkest open source supporter’s day.

Overheard at the Water Cooler

icecubedHeard at the water cooler recently in my almost all Windows workplace was something that took me by surprise.  We have a couple of highly trained individuals here in Networking.  We’re a Cisco shop, so if you know how confusing that can be, you know that not everyone can just jump right into one of those networks and know what they’re doing.  These individuals were having a conversation outside of my cube so I didn’t inject myself into the conversation.  But, I did ask myself, is this what Linux and Open Source is up against?  If so, we still have a long way to go.

It seems an external site was attempting VPN access into our corporate network.  The problem the external site was hitting was that they couldn’t initiate a session FROM their network…but someone from our location could initiate a connection TO their network.  They used a Linux box to provide them VPN, Firewall, and proxy services.  Now, any Linux admin worth his or her salt would have immediately known that being able to VPN back into a site but not VPN out of a site means that the firewall doesn’t have the right ports open and/or forwarded.  This should have been an easy fix…but the guys at this external location evidently didn’t posses this knowledge.

Instead of blame falling on the improper configuration, open source was blamed as a whole.  My colleagues stated that those “free tools people use never stack up to paid ones” and that “you get what you pay for…and if you don’t pay for it you don’t get it”.  So according to these guys:

  • Free = poorly designed, less than good software
  • Paid = better designed, wicked awesome software

Which of course, you and I know is a bunch of hooey.  And this is what some of the smartest guys I’ve had a chance to work with state about Linux and open source.  Makes me really wonder if they know their Cisco stuff is often times Linux and open source as well.  I guess maybe I should tell them sometime.  Either way, Linux still has a long way to go to garner the acceptance it should have.

PCLinuxOS Repositories

2007 Repositories

2007 Repositories

Something that is asked about quite a bit in the PCLinuxOS support IRC channel is “how to change repositories”.  One of the main reasons this is needed is that not all repositories are reachable depending on your geographic location.  Some of the repositories are also down at random intervals.  To equip the standard PCLinuxOS user with how to change repos, we first need to understand how the repository is structured, how the developers use the repositories, and how the community should make use of repositories.

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